Health Care owner in legal trouble
The owner of Home Health Care of the Rockies suffered a legal defeat yesterday, when a 9th Judicial District Court judge threw out his defense in a civil case filed by his former business partners.
The decision is yet another setback for Ted McWhorter, who is a defendant in at least one other case and may soon be named in a federal case. Yesterday’s ruling comes in a case pitting McWhorter against people who were once his partners, but are now his competitors in the home nursing industry.
Judge J.E. DeVilbiss granted a motion for default by Alexandra and Patrick Piot, and directed their attorney, Ira Karet, to draft a court order that effectively invalidates McWhorter’s defense. DeVilbiss also found McWhorter in contempt of court for failing to appear at a hearing last summer, Karet said.
“I always think that granting a default judgment like this is a major development in a case, because the other guy doesn’t have a defense,” Karet said.
DeVilbiss’ decision sets the stage for a damages hearing later this year, and a possible order directing McWhorter to pay at least part of the Piots’ legal bill. The Piots are French citizens with resident status.
They are seeking damages stemming from their original agreement to become McWhorter’s partners, and from his behavior once they broke off the relationship and became his competitors.
Filed in district court last spring, the suit asserts McWhorter and his partners, Dennis Brunnet and Dennis McWhorter, failed to disclose a $120,000 promissory note from Home Health Care to Private Duty of Louisiana, Inc., another McWhorter-owned firm. It also claims he illegally diverted money from an account that was meant to pay employee taxes owed to the state of Colorado.
Once the partnership dissolved, the Piots allege that McWhorter
sent letters and made phone calls to patients – potential customers – impugning their integrity and urging people not to do business with them.
McWhorter’s written response to the Piots’ suit was to file a 36-page answer and counter suit identical – nearly word-for-word – to a suit he had filed against the Piots in October 1998. The response, which is what DeVilbiss threw out yesterday, claims the Piots diverted money from Home Health Care of the Rockies, defamed both the company and McWhorter, and stole the company’s clients.
Several former patients of Home Health Care now receive nursing care from the Piots’ Aspen Home Health.
McWhorter’s original suit was dismissed last year after his attorney first failed to follow instructions from the court and then disappeared altogether.
McWhorter, who is in Louisiana and did not attend the hearing in Glenwood Springs, was not available to comment on the ruling. But he was on the phone to DeVilbiss’ office during the hearing and told the judge that he could not afford a lawyer, Karet said.
“Judge DeVilbiss was very firm with him – he said he was tired of the delays,” Karet said.
McWhorter’s statement yesterday that he could not afford a lawyer counters statements made to The Aspen Times last Friday, when he said he was talking about representation with two Denver law firms and that insurance would pay the tab.
In addition to their civil case, the Piots have another case seeking unpaid wages, pending in district court. Also, a nurse who claims McWhorter owes her roughly $35,000 in back pay, mostly for care given to Carbondale infant Saige Blotske, says she may soon file a suit in federal district court.
Karet said he plans to have a court order reflecting the judge’s ruling ready within a week.
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